Monday, February 28, 2005

"No, I'm not gonna take my time. I wanna get off the stage."

This is just to let everybody know that Charlie Kaufman winning makes this the best Oscars ever. Or Best. Oscars. Ever. if you insist, you fucking blogaholics. Lisa wanted more violence during the telecast (two offscreen gunshots were not sufficient, I guess), but I told her, that one award is the only thing that matters this year. I would be remiss if I did not also mention Kaufman's co-victors, the two guys who wrote, "What if you could erase your memory of a bad relationship?" on a cocktail napkin five years ago.

Chris Rock was ok. A lot of those intros were weak non-sequitur type deals, but he protested on behalf of those short doc people when the music cut them off. His suggestion to have a drive-thru pickup window for the "minor" awards next year was amusing, too. Also, I applaud him because if you're going to tell a Michael Moore fat joke, at least come up with a new twist. The Super Size Me tie-in was much funnier than Russ Smith's classic line, "If he cares about poor people so much, why is he so fat?"

Beyonce didn't sing too great in English. I guess now the French understand how we feel when we hear the Scorpions doing "Rock You Like a Hurricane." No wonder they hate us. So, they don't let the actor, Minnie Driver, sing her number from the movie, but then they don't let that Jorge Drexler guy sing his own song from the pretty Motorcycle Diaries, so that an actor can sing it. Drexler was apparently so thrilled with Antonio Banderas' rendition of his song that when he won the Oscar later, he sang it himself in lieu of an acceptance speech. Like, "Okay, this is what the song is supposed to sound like."

Did anyone else cry when Sean Penn so bravely stood up for poor little Jude Law? Someone has to stand up for the underdog, and I guess now that the whole Iraq thing is over, Sean has found a new cause to champion: overexposed millionaire movie stars who are gently ridiculed in public.

New Directors/New Films looks like a strong lineup, as usual. I will go to as many of the press screenings as I can, and will try to find time to post some thoughts here.

I had time to win another buck sit-and-go poker tourney between the Oscars and posting this, but now I'm too sleepy to continue. Tomorrow I will finally crack open my Alan Clarke box set, I think.

Friday, February 25, 2005

"I'm ashamed of myself that I want them to need me, but I do."

So, dear friends, now that you've either seen Memories of Murder, or, far more likely, not seen it, I can admit that it was a bit melodramatic of me to claim that either Jang Jun-hwan or Bong Joon-ho is a visionary after seeing all of one film from each. Time will tell. I only hope that they both continue to make films, and that I am somehow able to see their work, and not just the American remakes of same.

I've been missing screenings left and right because of this here cold. I can only watch poker on TV and work at the video store and sleep. I can only eat chicken soup and tea with lemon. For real. Oh, and bagels. One of my online poker buddies (pathetic, I know) hipped me to this Airborne stuff, which I guess is supposed to boost your immune system with an effervescent combination of vitamins and herbs. I took some today, but I'm not ready to reccomend it to you all yet. But if any of you have heard it's toxic or something, let me know. Don't just post it as a comment here, either. For something like that, you could email me, or even call if you're one of the lucky ones that knows me that well.

I kind of want to check out Constantine. So you might as well let me know the bad news about that, too, before I blow ten bucks on it. I'm just so sick of these "horror" films that they slice up so they can get a stupid PG-13 rating. Not that they all suck, but most of them do, and the decision to cut out all the good parts is so clearly driven by demographics and not by any kind of artistic consideration. I still didn't bother with Imaginary Friend from Hell, or whatever that Robert DeNiro/Dakota Fanning thing was called, but as a grown-up, I am considering rewarding the makers of Constantine for their artistic integrity by going and paying my money to see it. Okay, that came out sounding funnier than I meant it to. Whatever. I read the comics when I was in college.

Monday, February 21, 2005

98 Problems

Neighbors won’t shut up. Got a bad cold. Broke, as always. Writing getting terser.

So, I saw Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance at the Walter Reade. The Film Society of Lincoln Center do an excellent job programming that theater, and Film Comment Selects is always a highlight of my movie year. Anyway, it’s a solid revenge flick, very well executed, but it doesn’t measure up to Oldboy, let alone Save the Green Planet! or the haunting Memories of Murder, despite the welcome presence of Song Kang-ho (Murder’s overzealous country cop) and Shin Ha-kyun (Green-haired would-be Green Planet savior). Oh! And the lovely Bae Doo-na from Take Care of My Cat as the most interesting, if underdeveloped character in the film, Shin’s anarchist girlfriend. Park Chan-wook is a meticulous director with a keen eye for depravity. In both Oldboy and Mr. Vengeance, he delays the violence much longer than expected, and when it does come, it has real visceral impact. He has a knack for capturing those tense, quiet moments before all hell breaks loose. His characters often seem to pause as if interrogating the very reality of their situation as they do horrific things to each other. They are understandably aghast, and we wish they would stop, but they never do. They always seem to go a little bit further than necessary. In both films, revenge predictably amounts to a zero sum game. But the aggrieved move inexorably forward, with a terrible kind of calm, like the inappropriate smirk on a certain president’s face as the nation fights a horrible and unnecessary war. Mr. Vengeance is a good, solid, nasty piece of work, but it is not as inventive or as psychologically resonant as Oldboy. Both are exemplary genre pieces.

I would say, from my exposure to their work, that Park Chan-wook is a master craftsman, while it’s possible that Jang Jun-hwan and Bong Joon-ho are visionaries. It’s easier to speculate with Jang, because Save the Green Planet! is so cracked, and works (or doesn’t work, depending on your point-of-view) on so many levels. It’s a maddening mess of a film that still manages to come together and deliver a surprising emotional impact. It’s possible that there’s a genius at work here, but his ideas and his mode of expressing them haven’t quite coalesced yet. Also, it’s kind of a brutal viewing experience. It gets extremely ugly, and its mix of comedy, horror, and pathos is often unsettling. It’s not something I’d recommend to my mother, for example. She wouldn’t last long enough to find out if poor, crazy Lee Byung-gu finds redemption.

On the other hand, I would have no problem recommending Memories of Murder to just about anyone who can stomach a little violence. The more I ponder the film (and I look forward to seeing it again when Palm puts it out a Region 1 DVD), the more I think it may be the best policier I have ever seen. Of course, I can’t put two films that I saw in 2004 in my all-time top ten, but if such a thing were remotely conceivable, I would think about it. I have more to say, but I’m too tired to go into it right now. It’s just as well if you don’t know too much when you go to see it at the Walter Reade this week. So just go. Trust me.

Memories of Murder screening info is at this link. Scroll down to the bottom of the page. Screening times are Monday, Feb 21 at 7 and Wednesday, Feb 23 at 1 & 9.

Here’s a couple links to stuff I enjoyed reading:
James Wolcott on Michael Medved on M$B
David Poland on Drudge on Chris Rock

Monday, February 14, 2005

Valentine's Day

This is not for my sun-eyed, coral-lipped, rose-cheeked, earth-skimming distracted soulmate, but just cuz I like it.

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

I should have realized, when this turned out to be my favorite of Shakespeare's sonnets (yeah yeah, and Sting's favorite, and probably every other idiot's), that I was destined to be a critic, and not a writer.

Monday, February 07, 2005

lazy blarger

Hi, if my brain was even on 9% right now, I might try to post my thoughts on Oldboy or something. Since it isn't, here is a song lyric from the Fastbacks:

Used to be afraid of what I liked
Used to be afraid of what was right
Never thought I'd get too far in life
Never thought I'd last another night

And then
Morning came and with it, a new light
I'm telling you, it wasn't all that bright
But it helped me to perceive all that I might
Put off for so long that I lost sight

Of the
Reason why I started this, to write

Why is it so hard sometimes to
Feeling sorry for myself and finish ruining my life?